Marathon diet and food

Hi there,

So I have landed a spot in the London Marathon next year, and am I undertaking training as we speak. I have read lots of articles and have a couple of books about running (one which is a runner's world publication!) but really I just need in lamen's terms:

how much should I be eating?

Should this be more than 3 meals a day?

(Random one!!!) Eggs and avocado are such a good source of protein but unfortunately I don't like these, what breakfast or post-race snacks are best?

Anything to steer clear of? Can you have a cheat day whilst training?

I eat healthily anyway but if I am running a marathon, I need specific advice on what do - any takers on advice?! 

Thank you!! image


  • HA77HA77 ✭✭✭

    If you eat healthily anyway you probably don't need to change much at all. I tend to try to have some carbs and protein straight after a hard session. My favourite is porridge with extra milk powder and peanut butter - a bit weird maybe but works for me. The other thing lots of people like to do is doing their long runs before eating in the morning, thinking that it'll improve your body's fat burning efficiency. Good luck.

  • Tom13Tom13 ✭✭✭

    Porridge and Pasta are my main staples along with lots of fruit and veg. I drink plenty of water, coffee and beer! Sometimes I treat myself to peanut butter and jam sandwiches after a long run. Good luck!image

  • Hi Jessica, assuming that you got a ballot spot for London, well done! This ballot has fairly long odds, so you're lucky to have been successful.

    Nutrition falls into two types:

    While training

    As you train more and burns up more calories (you will be doing more and longer runs before April!) it's very easy to over-compensate and think you can eat what you like. Just be sensible and don't change your diet too much. As you get fitter and your body adapts to running distances, it will burns less calories in doing so. One basic rule would be carboydrates before running (these provide energy) and protein after running (to aid recovery) - actually you need a mixture, but I'm simplifying as far as possible.

    I agree with HA77 that if possible, run your long runs in a fasted state (first thing in the morning?), this gets your body used to using any stored energy efficiently so that it is less reliant on food as a fuel and is better prepared to run 26.2 miles without having to eat 3 breakfasts first.

    Don't run straight after eating, you're likely to get a stitch.

    After running, mix of carbs and protein (more protein than carbs) - apparently you're best to take this on board within 30 mins or so of running, as your muscles can make use of the nutrients more effectively. Lots of people swear by chocolate milk for this. Alpen & milk for me.

    Of course you can have a cheat day, it's up to you and you're doing this (presumably) because you want to, it doesn't have to be super-strict. If you eat healthily anyway, then you're halfway there already.

    April (i.e.- just before the big day)

    You're likely to be tapering, so less training means scale back the calorie intake proportionally. You don't want to put on unnecessary weight at this point, as you'll have to carry it all around London. Think about carb-loading - stay off the carbs for a week or so (although this is debatable) and then try to eat more carbs for the last two days (every Italian restaurant in London will have nervous-looking runners eating pasta and not drinking on the night before), the point is to "top up your energy tank" with carbs before the race. Nothing too spicy, and nothing radical that your body may not be used to.

    On raceday, don't eat too much - again, carbs is the order of the day and slow-release ones if possible. Porridge is a classic. You may want to use carb gels - if so, take them regularly throughout the race (i.e.- don't wait until you're knackered and think they'll revive you) - e.g.- if you're going to take 4, plan to take them at maybe 6, 12, 17 and 22 miles? Most importantly, try them on your long runs and stick with a brand and flavour which agrees with you. You may have to use some trial and error to find a suitable brand (they can be horrible) but once you do, buy a whole box online (much cheaper that way) and make sure you're used to them.

    After the race - whatever the hell you feel like, you've earned it!


    Jessica - lots of good advice already posted on here.  

    However, for your first marathon I would not advise doing your long runs in a fasted state.   Eat a good healthy carb based breakfast before your long runs and when you find what food suits you best before your long runs then try and have the same breakfast on race day.

    Try and eat healthily but of course you can have a treat now and then.   Keeping hydrated through your training is important too.   Marathon training is tiring and if you're dehydrated you'll feel even more tired.

  • You don't need to eat anything special - as others have said don't over compensate for your training and think that it gives you a free pass to eat loads, the number of people you see complaining about not losing or even gaining weight whilst marathon training is amazing but then you realise that they are having a big dinner because they are going to do a long run the next day, then supper for the same reason, then a large breakfast, then they get back from their run and treat themselves because they've just done a long run, then they feel they've earned a big dinner etc etc.

    I don't run my long runs fasted (and I've run a  few marathons) but have a good usually oat based breakfast at least an hour before I run. If I've run long I will then have a carb/protein snack within thirty minutes of finishing, something like peanut butter and banana on toast or a tuna sandwich or if I don't fancy food chocolate milk, then just my usual meals thereafter.

    If you think you can or you think you can't you're probably right.
  • I too dislike avocado, however it is really good for you, so....... I've have disguised it in smoothies which kinda works. I've also tried it on toast - spread houmous on toast and top with mashed, seasoned avocado and some chopped feta cheese - It actually tasted ok!

    banana smoothies are also good - banana, milk and a tsp of peanut butter blended. Tastes better than avocado! 

    Eat three meals a day with a couple of healthy snacks inbetween i.e. A small handful of almonds or a couple of oatcakes or a banana or natural yoghurt.

    some days I found it hard to eat enough food (especially after a long run), so listen to your body, just make sure you keep well hydrated

  • Does anyone keep a food diary?Wondering if there is an easy way of measuring what goes in and out?I suspect I eat too much carbs-bread,pasta etc.  

  • Soccer Guy - you could try myfitnesspal. It's mainly thought of as a weight loss tool, which is how I originally used it - but I continue to use it as it really helps to track overall calories in and calories out (if you log your exercise) and will show any macros imbalance, e.g. too many carbs, or in my case too little protein!

  • Surprised at some of this advice. If you're marathon training you are probably burning an extra 1000 calories a day, which is c.50% more than a sedentary person should be consuming. That is quite a big change in diet. Personally I found it difficult to increase my calorie consumption by that much at first.

  • I doubt many people training for their first marathon will be running ten miles a day or more Chris.

    If you think you can or you think you can't you're probably right.
  • Ok, let's say it's an average male running 25miles a week, that is an additional 450 calories a day, seven days a week. That's something like a 20% increase in daily calorific intake. Sure you can get those extra calories from having just one chocolate muffin a day, but if you want to do it in a way that's 'healthy' then that takes quite a bit of effort IMO.
  • It's less than most shop bought sandwiches Chris. Two rounds of toast with peanut butter and a banana would do it.

    If you think you can or you think you can't you're probably right.
  • when you get to the heavy and intense training (the last third) you will want to add mid morning and afternoon snacks. piece of fruit and a yoghurt etc.

    at this point in your training you should increase calorie intake to avoid getting sick and or injured.

  • PG3PG3 ✭✭✭

    Personally, I cant eat that much more when marathon training, compared to not.  I must be blessed with a very efficient body image  Myfitnesspal might tell me that i have burnt 1000 calories or so, but if i eat an extra 1000 cals, i put on weight.


    PG3 - I agree.   If we all ate what our Garmins told us we'd burnt in calories we'd all get fatter.   

  • 15West15West ✭✭✭

    Eat a bit more fruit daily...and eat plenty of good food after a long run. That's what I try to do....still trying to cut out snacking in the evening...munch munch.

  • This is a great thread. I'm signed up for my first Marathon in May (Stirling Scottish) and the diet thing has been playing on my mind. There's so much stuff out there that it's confusing. After reading this, i'll just keep eating what i'm eating (porridge with banana for breakfast, snacking on fruit, nuts and dried fruit, main meals as pasta and meat and recover with a chocolate milk.

    Only ever done a couple of half marathons before so this is somewhat of a challenge.

  • Peter - I'll see you there. What you're doing sounds great. Your body will be perpetually hungry because of the training you're putting it through - just be careful not to think you can pig out and eat what you like because you've run xx miles, it doesn't work that way and it's easy to put weight on

  • Not tried caviar mid long run before. Thank you for the advice. Does it go well with spam? 
  • in this way you eat food heavy but you are run in marathon your diet should be change. to use protein food and milk powder.
    [url=] Degreaser [/url]
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